In this three part blog, we will be looking at how small businesses can effectively use social networking sites as a part of their overall marketing strategy. Part 1 will focus on what social networking is and why it has become a viable marketing strategy.
When talking about social networking web sites, you might think of some of the more popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, social media encompasses many other places where individuals come together online such as blogs, forums, media sharing groups (YouTube and Flickr), location-based social networks (FourSquare and Gowalla), user review site (Yelp), and its newest entrant, Google+. The list continues to grow.
Over the last several years the social web has become very popular with individuals. It gives people a way to share thoughts, ideas, and opinions about anything and everything. Social web sites allow people to interact with one another and build relationships. Although the majority of individuals using social sites range from about 15 to 40 years of age, even my 70+ mother (Sorry, Mom J!) has a Facebook page. She is a newbie to Facebook and mostly interacts with family and people in her local community, but she now has a social voice and influence with her Facebook friends.
Since the rise of the advertising age, businesses have used various forms of media to promote and educate the public on their products and services, attract new customers, create brand awareness, and to achieve customer loyalty. Traditional marketing channels include newspaper, magazines, billboards, radio advertisements, TV commercials, direct mail, etc. Nowadays, businesses are learning how to effectively use social networking websites. These sites can be utilized by businesses in much the same way as traditional advertising. Businesses can post messages about a new product line, advertise a special product promotion, create buzz about a new item added to their menu, or even provide their “followers” with a coupon redeemable upon their next visit. The real value in social marketing comes when individuals “re-post” or “re-tweet” a message. By doing so, all of the individual’s connections or relationships can see the message as well. Social networking sites act as a word of mouth advertising medium. And, good or bad, “word of mouth” is the most influential form of advertising.
Creating a social presence online is free, easy to get started, fun, and a great way to interact with customers. These factors alone can be reason enough for small businesses to consider them as marketing tools - especially those small businesses who often have limited staff and small budgets but who also want to grow their business and customer base.
Social media is continuing to increase in popularity because it’s easily accessible to anyone with internet access. Social marketing takes a “customer oriented” approach and aims to create content that attracts attention from a target audience. And therefore, it is becoming an effective marketing strategy for businesses, particularly small local businesses.
In part 2 of my Social Networking and Your marketing Strategy blog, I will describe a few of the more familiar social media sites and how they can be used in your overall marketing strategy.